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SAT Score: Your Golden Ticket to Enter US Universities

3 Min Read
January 18, 2023
EduALL

Nearly 3 million high school students around the world take the SAT each year, which is arguably the most well-known standardized college entrance exam from the United States. As you would expect, the higher your SAT score, the greater the chance to get into your dream university. But is there a certain SAT score threshold that marks a 'good' score? Let's find it all here!

What is the SAT?

The SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) is a three-hour test created for high school students and administered by the College Board. It is composed of three main sections—Math, Evidence-Based Reading, and Writing—and is used to measure a student's academic knowledge and skills to determine their preparedness for higher education.

Section Sub-section Total Testing Time Number of Questions
Evidence-Based Reading & Writing Reading 65 minutes 52
Writing  35 minutes 44
Math No Calculator 25 minutes 20
Calculator  55 minutes  38

SAT Score Breakdown 

Your SAT score, which ranges from 400 to 1600, is the sum of your two section scores: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW). Each section is scored between 200 and 800 in 10-point increments. 

Not all questions receive the same weight when scored as they have different levels of difficulty. The College Board converts your raw scores into scaled scores, which are then used to calculate percentile ranks. The percentile indicates how well you did compared to other test takers. For example, if you score in the 75th percentile, you did better than 75% of test takers.

SAT scores follow a normal distribution. This means that student performance tends to cluster around the middle of the scale. Based on College Board data, this table displays the percentile ranking for various composite SAT scores:

Composite Score (Out of 1600) Percentile Rank
1600 >99
1550 >99
1510 99
1500 98
1450 97
1410 95
1400 94
1350 91
1340 90
1300 86
1250 80
1220 76
1150 72
1130 64
1100 60
1080 57
1050 50
1030 44
1000 40
980 34
920 20
830 10
770 5
650 1
640 <1

Test-optional SAT score

According to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, more than 1,800 four-year colleges have announced plans to go test-optional or test-blind for the SAT. Admissions officers now focus on other factors, such as GPA, course rigor, extracurricular activities, admission essays or personal statement, and letters of recommendation.

Despite the rise in test-optional or test-blind policies, a good SAT score can still make your application stand out. Just because a school has allowed applicants to exclude SAT test scores does not mean other applicants are not continuing to submit their SAT scores.

What is a good SAT score for top universities?

What is considered a satisfactory SAT score depends on the colleges and universities that you are applying to. Generally speaking, the higher your SAT score, the greater your chances are of getting into a prestigious school. But remember, it's just one component of your application! Other components, including your high school records, admission essays, extracurricular activities, and volunteer work are also taken into account in the admissions process. That being said, it's still a good goal to get a good SAT score to maximize your chances of getting into your dream university. 

Here's a look at the 25th and 75th SAT percentiles in math and reading combined for the 2021 admissions cycle at top US universities:

School name  25th percentile SAT score  75th percentile SAT score 
Princeton University  1460 1570
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 1510 1580
Harvard University  1480 1580
Stanford University  1470 1570
Yale University  1480 1580
University of Chicago 1510 1580
Johns Hopkins University 1510 1570
University of Pennsylvania  1480 1570

A score in the 25th percentile indicates that 25% of students scored at or lower than this threshold, while a score in the 75th percentile indicates that 75% of students scored at or lower than this threshold.

Conclusion

Simply put, there is no one definition for good SAT scores for universities. It all comes down to the schools you are planning to attend. Don't feel pressured to compare your scores to others; what matters most is getting the SAT score you need to enter the school of your dreams!

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